Tag Archives: brutalism

Architecture: San Jose Brutalism

The capital city of Costa Rica doesn’t have much of a high-rise skyline to speak of. But one unmissable architectural landmark on San Jose’s urban landscape is a massive brutalist skyscraper that’s home to the Instituto Nacional de Seguros.

Depending on your point of view, the building is either an ugly eyesore, an oddly ambitious and out of place gesture of modernist architecture, or it’s an architectural gem, a shining, living example of brutalism.

In any case, the structure is one of the largest in  San Jose and it’s architecturally significant. The brutalist style was an influential architectural  movement that came of age in the 1950s and was in vogue for a time in the  ’60s and ’70s, a time when many large cities in Latin America were experiencing a building boom. (See more examples of San Jose architecture here and here.)

(See another example of brutalist architecture on Global Graphica.)

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Chatham Towers

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Many of the residential buildings in Chinatown are old low-rise tenement buildings tightly crammed next each other along narrow traffic-choked streets. That makes the Chatham Towers apartment complex pictured here a stand-out in the neighborhood. The architectural design, with its concrete facade and alternating balcony scheme, is a sophisticated example of the 1960’s international Brutalist style. The 25-storey Towers are surrounded by a landscaped plaza and leafy park grounds that make the complex seem like it’s a world away from Chinatown’s cramped chaos a few meters away. Chatham Towers were built in 1964 and each building has 120 apartments. The design was by Kelly & Gruzen. Since 9/11, the area surrounding (and including) the Towers has been barricaded and closed to non-residents due to the proximity of the structures to New York City Police headquarters and heightened security concerns.

Ivan Corsa Photo